New West Needs a U-Turn on Traffic

Chris Bryan is a New Westminster resident and the editor of the New Westminster NewsLeader.

As you may know, I write a weekly column in the New Westminster NewsLeader.

When I started the draft for this week, my goal was to talk specifically about the United Boulevard Extension project, which is the subject of a “town hall-style” meeting on Dec. 7 at the Justice Institute. I’d been hearing from people, in person and online, that a main concern was that the project would lead to more traffic coming to the Royal City.

Photo by Dennis Sylvester Hurd

And then I thought: Why are we always fighting to prevent more traffic from coming to this city?

Why don’t we turn this equation around and start fighting—hard—for less? Did you know that our city has 400,000 vehicles on its roads every day? And our population is only about 60,000. I doubt you’d be able to find any city in this region more inundated in such a tiny space. Although we have adapted, in a way, to this situation, I don’t think we should accept it.

It’s crazy that we have to avoid about a dozen key streets at various times of the day because we know they will be a commuter nightmare. And we shouldn’t have to become rat-runners in our own city, creating our own unique routes to get to friend’s houses, to daycare, to the community centre.

In my column, the first thing I proposed is getting Option 4 for the Pattullo Bridge replacement back on the table. That would make the new bridge link Surrey and Coquitlam—we’d be out of the picture—and possibly remove as many as 80,000 vehicles from our streets a day. (Do you remember that week in January 2009 when the Pattullo was closed?) The option was removed last year, but who knows? There still could be time to make the case that it should return for consideration when the public consultation kicks off, likely in 2011. It’s an opportunity that might not come around again for decades.

If we can’t do that, I still think we need to change everyone’s perception of our role in the region. Our own—as well as that of TransLink, Metro Vancouver, the province and everyone who drives through each day. We’re a growing, compact city. We’re well served by transit. The population of Coquitlam, Burnaby and Surrey has exploded over the last 20 years. And while our role as thoroughfare may have been acceptable when they were sleepy suburbs back in the ’60s, so much has changed in the meantime.

Today, I think, that relationship no longer works.

43 Replies to “New West Needs a U-Turn on Traffic”

    1. God love you, Norman. Still got the world's largest non-smoking sign on your roof?
      All the best!

  1. Thanks to Chris Bryan. A clarion call for the citizens of New Westminster. I have been regularly impressed by the tenacity of our city's residents. We have too many good ideas in this town to settle for a bad one: the UBE. Replace the bailey bridge with a 2 lane for safety sure, but that should be it. Spend the rest on the Evergreen Line to get those cars off the road.

  2. I've bored everyone I know senseless with the thought that better public transit access points from/into Surrey and Coquitam would be a solution to traffic congestion centered around the terrifying Patullo Bridge. And now I'm going to bore you. 🙂

    Actually, better public transit in those cities would be a marked improvement to traffic congestion all around. I think most of the problem lies in the underfunding of public transit, and a pervasive driving culture that becomes necessary. This is especially problematic due to exploding populations in these areas without the bus/train routes to accomodate it.

    Basically, I think one way to fight growing car traffic into New West is seeking ways to make public transit more advantageous in these other areas, too.

  3. Will, I’m not sure two-laneing the Bailey bridge will increase safety at all… it would be nice if they hung a sidewalk off the side of it, though.

    Rob: Far from boring, you are right on the money. The best thing we could do to reduce traffic in New Westminster is build a more comprehensive public transit system servicing other areas. Skytrain from Braid to PoCo, and connecting to the Evergreen line (presuming Evergreen will be built, of course). Then let’s stop dicking around with freeway lanes and get some rails to the Valley.

    1. It's my understanding that the Evergreen Line is meant to tie in at Lougheed. I've always thought, and said so when I was opposing the Port Mann/Gateway plans, that it would be better for us to reduce vehicle traffic by instead running light rail down between east and westbound lanes of the highway and putting bus loops and/or park and rides at various highway exits. Now that all that land has been gobbled up by our LA solution it is no longer an option.

  4. Is nothing sacred anymore ?
    Stealing my stolen fake name !
    Damn you and the horse you road in on !

  5. Well said Chris, where were you two years ago when I was the ONLY candidate in the civic election calling on New West to hold the line on traffic. 🙂

    I remember your reporter Michael McQuillan even point that fact out to me during an interview, being quite impressed that someone would take such a position.

    There simply is no room in New West for more traffic, and those in the city who are in favour of the NFPR need to sit down and really think about where a 4 lane road could go. It was pointed out to me just the other night that there's a pinch point between the InterUrban and the railway track. Even if the City were to convince the railways of their dream to remove one of their lines along the waterfront, there physically is only room for (barely) 3 lanes along Front between Begbie and Columbia. Unless you're going to rip a corner out of the InterUrban for a freeway (not likely) or spend a billion dollars on a tunnel under the city (even less likely), ANY talk of a 4 lane NFPR through the city is complete fantasy. It's time we accepted that.

    At NWEP's AGM a few weeks ago (let's see if I can get the numbers right) Jerry Dobrovolny described how Vancouver has had a policy of zero increase in road capacity for nearly 20 years, through 3 different administrations (NPA, COPE, Vision), these very different parties all shared that same vision. And with this policy between 1998 and 2009 despite a population growth of around 20-something percent and a job growth of 15-ish percent they've had a REDUCTION in cars on the road by about 10 percent.

    It IS possible to mode shift and reduce car dependence WHILE a region is growing. Vancouver has proven it. We just need the political will in New Westminster and surrounding "zone 3" cities to demand transit and not roads. Enough excuses from the politicians, either sign on to this vision or get out of the way for those who will.

    1. Maybe next year you should run for council in Vancouver !
      That way you can get your experience in manipulating data and fooling the public !

    2. Thanks Matthew – I was pretty sure I wasn't the first to call for this! ; >
      I think New West needs to take Vancouver's "zero increase and road capacity" policy and take it a step further.
      Status quo isn't acceptable. We should take today's baseline and set a goal to reduce it.
      Back to the Pattullo Bridge — I think we need a Jane Jacobs here.
      This could be our Spadina Expressway — — or our Lower Manhattan Expressway. It's our chance to make the wise kind of game-changing move along the lines of Vancouver's decision in the 1960s to reject a freeway through the city.
      Yes, the Pattullo's already in our yard, but what if the city made a case to the region that it doesn't fit anymore?
      I think a compelling one could be made.
      Yes the suburbs need more transit, people need to get out of their cars. But that's a long term project.
      I think we have an amazing opportunity today.
      —Chris Bryan

  6. Well, I live in Burnaby but I do shop and play in New West. I know we are bigger in area and population, but as far as I can see, the problems are similar, although magnified in New West. I'm not for the Evergreen line – too expensive and inflexible – but I'm for sure all for more and, more importantly, better planned and executed public transit. I hate that bridges and roads and private vehicle whatnots are lumped in with public transit now, but the stronger Surrey/Coquitlam bridge link sounds a good idea for New West. Of course, then those cars will just come right by my place. Drat! ____(Where is this non-smoking sign?)

    1. I agree with you !!!!!
      The Neverseen line is a total WASTE of money and totally inflexible !

      Plans to expand that Bombardier lemon have to be shelved for more important projects like roads.

    2. If it's the Norman Wrigglesworth that I knew from Richmond, his house by the airport was noted as having the world's largest non-smoking sign on the roof. Great guy, too—(if that's you Norman!)

  7. "a main concern was that the project would lead to more traffic coming to the Royal City."

    I don't think the traffic is coming to this city for any other reason then passing thru Chris.

    "Did you know that our city has 400,000 vehicles on its roads every day? And our population is only about 60,000"

    Yup, and the 400k vehicles have no business in New West other then get through to Vancouver, Burnaby, Delta, Richmond, Surrey where they work or live.
    "That would make the new bridge link Surrey and Coquitlam—we’d be out of the picture—and possibly remove as many as 80,000 vehicles from our streets a day"

    Hey Chris, what route did these 80k vehicles end up taking ? Did they just stay home rather then going to work because a bridge was closed ? Short sighted answer if you ask me.

    "The population of Coquitlam, Burnaby and Surrey has exploded over the last 20 years"

    And our council and city is working very hard to see our population explodes as well ! New West has been stagnant for to long !

    1. Actually, Translink and the MoT's numbers showed that during the Pattullo closure those 80K trips didn't all migrate to other bridges. The total increase in trips over all the other bridges was significantly less than the 80K removed from the Pattullo.

      Those that really didn't need to make trips across the river simply didn't. When there's a cost to a driving choice, either by time or monetarily it does influence decisions. People either plan better and combine trips, skip unnecessary trips, find options closer to home, or take transit. Changing habits and encouraging smarter transportation decisions is possible.

    2. I agree! People who drive have no reason to come to New Westminster. We really should give them a good reason to come to New Westminster. More shopping, more restaurants, more businesses. Then at least when I get hit by a car because some doorknob is rat-running along Fourth Avenue in in the dark and the rain, at least I can rest easier in my hospital bed knowing that the economic interests of New West are well-served by the influx of traffic.

    1. Cheonggyecheon looks amazing. Hadn't heard of it. Thanks!
      I think scrapping the Pattullo altogether, though, is a pretty huge proposition that would require an entire re-think of how transportation planning is done in this region. I'm talking about something we can do today to address our immediate concerns about traffic in New West.
      I'd like to hear people's thoughts about pushing for TransLink to change the new Pattullo to link to Coquitlam instead of New West.
      I know it doesn't achieve the goal of forcing more people to ride bikes or take transit, but it would change the traffic impact on our town overnight.

  8. Good ideas, but let's also create more reasons for us to not to need cars and do our stuff in New West. We don't have a Hardware store in New West, we're going to have 3 Safeways but no Extra foods or Superstore to compete with the others, we have very long routes between very short disances.

    I don't use a car, I use a bike, but there are some very dangerous places to travel that have not been addressed for bikes. Where's the bus that goes from Uptown or Downtown to Queensborough? Downtown's been one big construction zone for 5 years now. Has the city offered equivalent-cost alternatives for the stores getting evicted for the Multi-purpose centre? The old Columbia Market's going to be gone for good as of this month without an option.
    Traffic's a big issue, but one of many. It's time to look at many things, think of the people who have lived here for many years and appreciate everyone. Let's start working on things that not only make it look good, but make this city into an efficient and useful community for a wide range of people on a daily basis. I made sure to ride my bike to do some shopping today, because I know it's not going to be safe to do that when it's icy or rainy and the places I needed to shop today aren't available in New Westminster (but they used to be).



  9. What about this new city children 1st charter? If the city is serious about this new charter they would be getting cars off the road not looking at proposals to double the 400,000 that go through town every day putting our children more at risk at they walk to and from school. Good for the parents for requesting more air quality testing on the school play grounds as a result of these increase the traffic proposals. It also seems there are as many school portables going up as there is condos going up – is that putting the children 1st? Is it part of the new city "children 1st charter" that additional portables must only go on green space as is happening at Tweedmuir School.

  10. If we keep the Pattullo as is and it doesn't get rebuilt it can't be the free alternative to the newly built Port Mann. One way or another it too must be tolled or we'll be the favourite route of every toll-dodger south of the Fraser.
    And yes, the sidewalk on the Pattullo is bad. Riding a bike over the Pattullo is no fun at all: debris on the sidewalk, trucks a few feet from your handlebars, etc.
    Another big problem I see with our present situation is that our two closest neighbours, Burnaby and Coquitlam, haven't taken the same transit oriented track that we have. i.e. Big Bend in Burnaby or Unitled Blvd. in Coquitlam as two examples of building commercial space in areas that are not serviced by transit which means that all those people who work there have to travel there somehow and likely drive there.

  11. Chris, great article and I couldn't agree more.

    This really is a question of what kind of community and region do we want to live in. I really do like my walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly community and do not appreciate it when people tear through here trying to get somewhere else (I can tolerate it if they drive carefully). While I understand these drivers may not have options for using other modes of transportation at the moment, I definitely think that we'd be doing them a favor by pushing back on more road projects like UBE and to join them to demand for more and higher quality public transportation in their communities… so we don't have to have more roads in ours.

    Our way of life in New Westminster is worth exporting to other communities!

  12. I wonder how the emergency response time for the NWPS and NWFD and ambulances will compare when we get the new Pattullo and UBE? Pretty hard to go any where in grid lock 24 7. Does anyone know what the city’s emergency planner thinks of all this? Not much I would hope.

  13. Did you read The Record this weekend ? Good news !

    "Lowrie said TransLink would like to sign a conditional agreement with the federal government about funding for the project by the end of the year. —->He said TransLink doesn't require the city's support to sign that agreement because it already has the city's conditional support from 2007.<—-"

    That is superb news. I am elated this project can go ahead without our councils foolishness. They are an embarrassment with all their statements in the media against a project they already gave support to !

    And thanks Pat and Mat for getting everyone worked up over something you have no control over because your 3 years late. Keep your eyes on the ball and stop using the environment to justify your politics.

  14. -good news on the UBEI from city council tonight – thank you Mathew! – I hope the city and Translink can communicate better next time.

    1. I'm wrong ?
      I'll believe that when I see it in print in the Coquitlam Now , or the TransLink Buzzer !

      Missed council last night, did Pat and Mat with their crew of malcontents keep council busy with hours of delegations and protests ? Did you see the reports on the homeless shelter in Coquitlam ? They needed police in council for that meeting, their mayor was threatened, had his house vandalized over it, the homeless shelter was still approved.

      So our council passed another meaningless motion to not support any of the options including the one they "agreed" to and told TransLink to present ?

      What a bunch of flip floppers !

      This will surely make TransLink, Coquitlam and the entire region respect our councils motion to halt traffic generated outside our municapal borders. Well, if this is true, and we've lost major federal funding, and any chance of the NFPR being completed piecemeal or otherwise in a timely fashion to meet the growing demand.

      And seeing as how you people are so well informed with regard to traffic and TransLink I thought I might as well let you in on a little secret our city and council know about. TransLink bought a property in East Richmond that they're going to turn into a bus storage and service depot. They plan to route over 350 buses daily >>THRU<< New Westminster from Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Vancouver over the (already plugged) Queensborough Bridge !

      Good work All ! Enjoy the growing traffic nightmare you've selected for New Westminster !

      1. Actually, Rick, as far as I know, it was done in camera. I don't know for sure, because I too missed the meeting. If Translink can't find away to work around a seven-square-mile city in their master road plan, then they're in the wrong business. I'm sure they can come up with other options. There's no need for every major route to come through New West. There just isn't.

        1. FYI, it was done at the end of the committee of the whole meeting not in camera – I was there. The conversation was more about how to word the motion rather than any discussion about the issue. Not a lot of time was spent on it as it was clear they could not go forward with the option they had decided in the first round. Picture in your mind a live fish out of water and you will get the idea of how things are going to be for the next 11 months. I still think the city and translink should let the people that live here be given a clean page and allowed to come up with a solution. For myself, if the South Fraser perimeter road was properly connected to the new Port Mann bridge and Mary Hill bypass, we would not need the North Fraser perimeter road. Then they can get onto fixing or replacing the Patullo – maybe a three lane alternating bridge with a pedestrian and bike lane. Maybe even a look out spot for tourists. I am still an advocate for the Stormount Connector to relieve all the side-street traffic in New Westminster. It is time to claim back our community get rid of speed bumps, bulges and congestion! I believe this would dramatically reduce out of city traffic in the rest of New Westminster. Traffic will do anything to get to the Patullo might as well provide a shorter route through Burnaby. Anyone think it is time for Burnaby to step up!

        2. Actually, Barb, as far as I know, it has been reported in the Record that the motion passed didn't cancel the project at all. Mat is hoppin mad, and he wants you to be too ! I wonder what Pat is ?

          I knew it, but I have to apologize and retract some of my former comments. I lost control of my emotions over the motion you mentioned. I can't take back the bus depot thing. Darn. Guess the cats out of the bag on that one…. But I can gleefully state that my faith in council being properly counseled on this issue is restored. It will takes some very high level input from TransLink over the holidays to ensure this project continues to the benefit of the majority. Sorry, about floppers flipping thing too…. glad its all flopped back to normal.


          1. The bus depot in Richmond, right on our border is not news. Gavin Palmer brought it to council's attention earlier this year. It was the first they had heard of it then though. I'm not sure about it servicing buses for Burnaby, etc. I was under the impression it was Richmond and other south of the Fraser communities. Regardless, the buses will all be traveling on New Westminster, Queensborough roads rather than Richmond as Richmond has stipulated this and we'll get 300+ buses all idling every morning as they warm up.

          2. Really, a bus depot on the other side of the Queensborough bridge in East Richmond is supposed to service the South of the Fraser communities ? Do you even know where the Fraser river is ? Please explain to me why Translink would run buses over the Alex Fraser to that depot ? To waste fuel ? It's clearly located in a position to facilitate movement over the Queensborough bridge. Otherwise they would have purchased property for much less in Delta, where they probably already have a service depot !

            Now listen to this guy whine about 300+ buses idiling to warm up every morning !

            I don't get your group at all. First you don't want any more traffic, no new roads but you do want expansion of transit services. Now Booo Hooo…. a depot mean idling buses every morning making pollution !

            Total hypocrites !

          3. Thanks for your comments, Chris. Yes, I do know where the Fraser River is. I look at it every day. I guess I should have been more specific. I believe the buses are to service Richmond. which is south of the arm of the Fraser that goes under the Queensborough Bridge.
            I don't live in Queensborough but I'm quite sure they're not thrilled about smelling 300 buses idling. Transit and buses certainly does mean less cars on the road but I think the idea of having buses "warm up" for long periods of time needs to be rethought.
            FYI: I'm not a part of the group, I think you believe I'm a part of, NWEP. I do however share many of their concerns and think that their organization has brought forward some good policy ideas.

          4. While it is true the Fraser has a North Arm, but it is certainly not the main channel of the river. You know it was about a week ago I was in Richmond, and I drove over the bridge and down the east-west connector. And on my way back I realized going over the over-passes that all that land to put in the connector was expropriated, I wondered how many houses where bulldozed in queensborough for that project that helps directs traffic thru New Westminster ? Seems that the council way back then didn't give to hoots about seeing that part of town cut in half with an expressway to the bridge head.

            Neil, the bus depot is in RICHMOND not Queensborough, so why would they "smell" anything there ? They already get to smell the fumes from trucks and cars backed up on the expressway to the bridge ! If anything it's Richmond residents that might get a little opacity, but I'm sure they would have purchased industrial zoned lands and not residential properties for their bus depot.

            And finally, why would TransLink have buses "warm up" for long periods ? Is there some policy to waste fuel needlessly ? Who are you getting this misinformation from ? Why is it in their agenda to campaign against a well positioned bus depot that will be utilizing the Queensborough bridge ?

            Your part of a group alright….

          5. Hey Rick,
            The site for the depot is pretty much right on the New Westminster/Richmond border but Richmond worked a deal to have bus drivers not use Richmond streets to access it. I guess kind of like the United Boulevard where a neighbouring city brings some large traffic issue to our doorstep. See this article to learn more about the bus depot.… As I say, Gavin Palmer would be a great person to contact if you have any more questions regarding this.
            There's no mystery or cloak and dagger going on here. Yes, I'm part of a group, two in fact. I've never been ashamed to admit that I've been involved with groups in the City. For years I was the president of the McBride Sapperton Residents' Association. I'm still a director. I am also the president of Voice New Westminster.

          6. Hey Neil,
            Sorry didn't see this one for a while !

            So, if you guys are so informed why am I the one that keeps adding these little tid-bits to enrich the debate ? How come Mat or Pat didn't bring up these other evil plans that Translink has in store for New Westminsters plugged streets, particularly the the NFPR route involves that bottle-necked bridge doesn't it ?!?!?

            "I guess kind of like the United Boulevard where a neighbouring city brings some large traffic issue to our doorstep" – did you even read the article you posted ? Is Translink a city ? Those buses are driving over the Queensborough bridge or taking the east-west-connector to get to Vancouver. Take a peek on google maps, and find a more efficient route to the bridge, and from the looks of it, its not residential, there are no houses, it's right infront of that shopping mall exit, just past that casino at Boundary.

            "Gavin Palmer would be a great person to contact" – He says in the article "That means 300 buses and another 300 vehicles will be travelling to and from this location," – That's funny, the 410 bus route starting at 22nd station passes right in front of the depot. I'm sure that's why everyone who works at the bus depot would need to take their car to get to their job fixing and driving buses for the evil marauding TransLink !

            "I've never been ashamed" – still ?

    2. Be interesting to see if TransLink could come up with anything the city (or residents) could support. Unless of course somebody finds a huge bag of money and says the North Fraser Perimeter Road upgrades would be done all at once, the Pattullo replacement too, and even the encapsulation of Front Street…
      I can't seem to envision TransLink coming back with anything that will satisfy residents' concerns about more traffic coming into our city.
      —Chris @ the NewsLeader

      1. Chris. the city and council already supported the T option, or have you forgotten ? A previous motion was for TransLink to only pitch option "A" while they had already done due diligence and came up with 3 other less expensive and more efficient options at the "donnybrook". That wasn't acceptable !
        We don't want to loose any precious Sapperton real estate !

        So now the city is telling TransLink to go back to the drawing board ? How on gods green earth is TransLink going to come up with an option that will be supported by this lot of bellyachers without moving it, adding a few 100 mill to the bill, and a couple drums of grease.

        By the sounds of this stalemate, I won't be surprised when this lands us in the loosing side of the courthouse, costing us taxpayers even more for our councils lack of decisive leadership !

        I guess we have to play "wait and see" with our councilors…

  15. Me thinks both Translink and the city need to go back to school and take communications 101, before we go down this road again.

  16. I know that no one has posted here in 2 weeks, but having been busy with the holidays, working etc, I thought I would talk a bit about the realities of life in the region. Contrary to popular belief its not constant gridlock in New West 24/7. There are ways of allieviating traffic on major corridors however, but none are seen as practical to either the city, or in the case of the sector of transportation I'm referring to, the shippers and receivers. A particular sport in New Westminster is the constant whining and bitching about trucks in New West. And it sometimes gets a little extreme to the point where a truck driver, such as myself, will take the time to respond to it, through letters to the editor, or on blogs such as this one. My ideas on the next page.

    1. Anyways, onto my ideas to help move traffic along in New West.

      1. Keep the lower level of Front Street for commercial traffic only from 5am to 7pm Monday to Friday. By keeping cars off this corridor (and perhaps also look at eliminating the light at 6th Street, and also closing Begbie Street at Front Street just before the rail tracks (still keeping access to Antique Alley), getting cars to use the 3rd Street or 10th Street overpass to the Quay) will allow the commercial traffic to traverese is corridor more speedily, resulting in less idling and therefore less pollution. Now no doubt the Greenies will argue that the trucks are vast polluters. As time has moved on, technology has caught up to the trucking industry and now most if not all new trucks are fitted with emission controls and particulate matter traps. As commercial fleets upgrade, this will continue to become more of the standard within the industry. Of course, if the rates increased in the industry to allow owner operators to upgrade to new equipment without losing their houses, so much the better and more quicker the process.

      1. Yes this suggestion has merit, however our society seems incapable to separate the cars from the trucks. The current United-Braid connector would also work much better, even with a one lane bridge, if cars were excluded from the industrial area.

        Another idea would be to only allow trucks to run from 9pm to 6am when there's little traffic on the streets. This would have the same effect, but, quite reasonably, truckers might not like doing the graveyard shift. (although there's entire industries which have people doing graveyard shifts, so it can be done).

        3 cheers for the "Greenies" who have pressured governments to introduce stronger pollution standards for trucks!!! Shame on the truck manufacturers and trucking industry for resisting them. We would all benefit if truckers were paid more so that these kinds of controls could be introduced sooner.

        Fortunately "Greenies" have moved on too and now recognize that you can't build your way out of congestion in built up urban areas and that balanced, multi-modal solutions are far more successful and cost-effective than doing more and more of the same thing. Until transporter beam technology improves, there's not too many technologies available to fix "there's too many cars on the road".

      2. Dave,

        Since I am a “Greenie” and you seem very knowledgeable about the Trucking industry, I have an honest question to ask.

        It seems that the Trucking Industry is generally resistant to things that will increase their costs. They effectively use the argument that if we increase trucking costs, a head of lettuce at Safeway or a bag of bolts at Home Depot will cost more – we all lose!

        However, my (admittedly basic) understanding of economics make me think that the trucking industry would benefit from higher shipping costs. They could charge more (that is generate more revenue) with fewer trips. The alternative is to lower shipping costs, which would imply that you would need to move more goods to make the same revenue.

        Or to summarize the question: how does reducing the amount of the costs of goods that go to the trucker benefit the trucker?

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